Power in Harmony

https://www.bible.com/72/rom.15.5.hcsb

Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.
(Rom 15:5-6)

Last Saturday, my daughter was taking part in a band combined with all the regional bands from their middle schools. I didn’t expect what I heard. Over the course of one day, my daughter has managed to learn how to play three new songs, songs she didn’t even know to start, and then learn how to play them with complete strangers. By the time of the concert, they had managed to learn how to play together and bring off a most impressive concert, despite their youth and inexperience. I credit this in part to the instructors who worked with them, but also the power of harmony, when everyone is working together to a common goal. In this case, everyone was working on the same music, if not the same page.

I think we Christians could take a page out of this book. We are all trying to save the world according to our own silos. Each of us think we have the right way and correct understanding of how the Bible works and how Jesus saves. The fact that there are hundreds if not thousands of churches (and yes, each have their own thing), would seem to give lie to that fact. Either only one of us is completely right, some of us are partially right or we’re all completely wrong.

Truthfully, I think we have much more in common than we think, and we probably ought to cooperate more than we do. If we all claim to be Christians, then surely there must be some real Christians among us. I believe each one must be firmly convinced in his own mind what he believes. But I also believe we tend to nitpick over non-essentials, like whether or not we use musical instruments in worship.

I believe the essentials are these: Jesus Christ is the Living Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified on a cross, risen from the dead and alive in Heaven at God’s right hand, but just as near to us. If this isn’t at the core of your faith, you are not a Christian. The resurrection alone as Paul said is the most important fact of our faith, and must be upheld.

The second is like the first: The Bible as written in its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) is the final authority of God on this earth. It was written by the Holy Spirit through the hands of about 40 men (and maybe women) to its minimum extent of 66 books, the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New. All of the Church recognizes these books. It is true in all that it attests to and affirms. It is our final authority of faith, and cannot be interpreted to the opposite of what it clearly says. It was written to be understood, and written so that even common men (and women) could understand it. Anyone who denies the written Word of God or its authority is not a Christian because they deny the surest source of authority they have.

Beyond these two, we can talk about others, but I believe you need these two to start having a conversation. God bless you today!

 

Does God Live in You?

www.bible.com/1713/1jn.4.15.csb

Could you contain the Creator of the Universe? Could you hold Him in your heart? Sounds impossible, but this is the promise of today’s text. Faith in the Divine Sonship of Christ, the Carpenter’s Son from Galilee, is the qualification. Far removed from those early days of faith it may be easier for us to see Jesus as the Son of God. We have no notions of Him as the kind Nazarene with a broad smile or kind eyes. We didn’t known Him as the powerful preacher or healer in Judea with whom the authorities argued. We didn’t spend time with Him around a campfire as he told them about the Kingdom. We didn’t see His humanity as He suffered on the cross. All we know we’ve experienced through the gospels and the Word of God. Could we believe in Him too?

Jesus once promised greater blessing on those who do not see, and yet believe. We definitely fall into that category. I wish we could hear His voice, to experience the timbre and pitch of the voice of the Son of God. Yet for us, Jesus is a man whose face we’ve only seen in artists’ depictions. We can only imagine what He is like. When He says, ”My sheep know my voice, ” you know we must be familiar with it, but only in the sense of catching His message and truth.

But that voice, though removed from us, still echoes down the corridors of time. Unlike many whose voices were stilled, Jesus still speaks. As Christians, we still hear Him. How do we know this? Because we’re neighbors. He loves in us. Our hearts are ”strangely warmed” by even the record of His words. Do you know His voice? You can even today. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Make Him Lord of your life. He speaks even today.

God bless you in your work today.

One Way

www.bible.com/1713/1ti.2.5-6.csb

How many ways are there to God? You might think, given the world we live, that there are multiple choices. It seems we have choices what to believe, what religion to follow, and even how we choose to follow the religion of our choice. We are so free, aren’t we?

Not so much. In fact, God seems to take away all of those options with the idea behind this verse. In fact, there is only one choice, the man Christ Jesus.

Why is this? In short, because there can be only one atoning sacrifice for sin, the only one qualified to atone for all sin for all time, and that is an infinite being, but also one who can shed blood and die. Only one being in the universe was capable of being infinite and eternal yet mortal. Jesus suffered all sin for all time because He is God. He paid for all sin because He shed His blood.

Since Jesus is the only one who could do this, then He is the only one who could save by His resurrection. This He is the only one we can trust in for eternal life. No one else comes close. No other god or prophet has done this. That’s why He’s the only One.

God bless you today.

Faith and Hope

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.1.3.csb

Not sure what you all make of this, but it seems pretty simple to me. Start first with the indisputable fact that the grave was empty that held the body of Jesus. Start there and digest that for a moment. The grave was empty because Jesus rose from the dead. It’s not just for Easter anymore. The grave is still empty. Jesus Christ, the prophet from Nazareth, died and returned to life long past the point an effective ER team could save Him. Jesus was dead. His body flatlined. He was dead for three days. And then He wasn’t. Upon this bedrock, the church is built.

As this verse says, the resurrection of Jesus came from the hand of the only One who could do this. Man could not do this. Medicine could not do this. God did this. And because God did it, and validated the message of Jesus by raising Him from the dead, the promises He gave us are guaranteed by the power expressed in the resurrection. Our new birth through burial in water gives us a hope for eternal life. We rise as He did.

This is the hope for every believer, and I pray is your hope this morning as well. God bless you today.

Good News and Bad News

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.3.36.csb

My daughter asked me last night if I wanted the good news first or the bad news first. I wasn’t sure so I said, ”chronological order.” She looked at me uncertainly, and then told me news about the bread she had baked. Huh? Well, sometimes it’s not terrible.

Sometimes the difference is life and death, even eternal life and death. So it is with our text today. It is said that Jesus Christ will stand over all in judgment on the last day at the great white throne. But it should be obvious that the judgment has already been made by the time we get there. And Jesus isn’t the One who judges. What? Jesus is the cause for judgment, but each and every person makes his own judgment whether he believes Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, and the essential Savior we need for our sins. So much rests upon individual faith that our eternal destiny depends on it. Each of us knows by the time we get to this glorious throne what the judgment will be.

I know there are those that will reject this truth outright, refusing to believe there is any kind of God, or that He would have a Son in a human being. It all seems crazy. Our five senses just aren’t ready for supernatural stuff. But we have other senses. Pardon me for getting a little weird, but, we also have a sense of right and wrong. We have a sense of beauty and perfection. We have love and joy and peace. We know when things are peaceful and when they are tense. We are aware of more than our five senses tell us. There is more than our five senses can sense. We know this inherently. That’s why we also have a sense of awe and wonder, of things too wonderful for us to understand. We have a sense for God.

So when we read stuff like this verse, we are compelled to respond. We can not remain neutral, because there is not middle ground here. Either we joyfully accept it, or we reject it. We know it means something, because our spirit responds to it. Scripture is like that. Few find a neutral position with Scripture. If God chose to speak to us, He must have something important to say.

How will you respond today?

No Need

www.bible.com/72/php.4.19.hcsb

Need anything? This question gets asked around our house when someone is texting from WalMart or Kroger or somewhere else. It is an expression of love, a willingness to get something when that person can’t physically be at the store, but still lacks.

As Christians, especially American Christians, we have so much and our needs are so often met that it’s hard to discern between what we need and what we desire. I imagine God sees our needs in a couple of ways, our physical needs (air, water, food, shelter, clothing), our social needs (companionship, love, mentoring), and our spiritual needs (forgiveness, grace, knowledge, hope, faith, and love). My lists are not exhaustive but point to some things as human beings we need, but often neglect. We favor and savor desires for self and pleasure more than we ask for peace and joy. We might prefer a slice of chocolate cake over reading and savoring a passage of Scripture. Or maybe going out to the movies than a Home Bible Study.

Yet God knows what we need. If we will seek Him, He will supply all of them through Christ Jesus. We cannot get what we need through Shiva, Baal or Isis. Nor through Mohammed, atheism, or Wicca. There is only one path to meet the needs that God Himself installed: Jesus Christ.

So which of the countless ways to Jesus is the right path? It’s easy to dismiss alternative religions, but Christians don’t make it any easier. How can I know which church is true? Don’t be daunted by the number of Churches. Christian Churches all follow the same Bible and preach the same Jesus, more or less. Whether you find a Methodist, Baptist, Christian, Catholic, Pentecostal, Apostolic, or Fundamentalist, all of these churches revere Jesus and worship Him. But I would not attend a church that doesn’t believe in the Bible and teaches from it regularly. If they need other books, walk away. If they don’t preach salvation through Jesus, leave them behind. I can’t tell you which one to go to, because some individual churches in extremely liberal denominations are still very conservative and preach and teach Jesus and the Bible. Some pastors have not given in to social pressure and still preach truth. But they are getting harder to find. For myself, I attend a Southern Baptist-type church on Sunday morning and an acapella Church of Christ on Wednesday night. That’s where I am at present.

If you can’t find a good church, at least start reading the Bible on your own. Get a group of you and some interested friends to study together. That’s how the church started, followers of Jesus meeting in homes. I want to encourage you to become part of a fellowship as soon as possible.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Have a great Thursday and God bless!

Immutability

www.bible.com/72/heb.13.8.hcsb

Immutability is a technical term I picked up in my doctoral studies that basically means “unchanging” or “unchangeable” which what this verse is about. Jesus Christ does not change. Yet, it is also true that Jesus learned.

In Hebrews 5:8 it is said that Jesus “learned obedience” from what he suffered. In Hebrews 2:10, it is said that Jesus was “made perfect through suffering.” From both we might infer that Jesus changed, from knowledge and experience before suffering to knowing what these things are. Immutable means that something cannot be changed, and yet here is One who seems to be changing before ours eyes.

Ok, before you start getting carried away with fears of Bible contradictions, first let’s consider He context of Hebrews 13:8. There, the author gives the warning about remembering the leaders and teachers of the faith. He says “consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Their Faith was on the finished work of Jesus Christ, whose work and effort is unchanging. The effect of His work is the same for everyone who believes in Him, and so everyone can live a life of of faith because He is the same Lord for all. Ok, that makes sense. But does this mean that the Lord Jesus is immutable, like God?

The fact that Jesus “learned” obedience through suffering doesn’t necessarily mean He changed. From our perspective as human beings, we see Him undergo this change from life to death to life again. We see Him suffering on the cross, following through with the plan designed from the beginning, which He has set out to do since the creation of the world. Nothing actually changed from God’s perspective. Jesus planned to suffer and die at the hands of men since before Adam sinned. That never changed.

What did change was the moment of decision in the garden. While Jesus’s divine nature never wavered, His human nature (which has been undergoing change all his life, from childhood to adulthood) was faced with choices which had the choice to obey or disobey the divine nature. Obedience was learned not in Jesus’ divine nature, which is immutable, but in His human nature. His human nature was tamed by His will to obey His divine nature.

Strangely, it is the same struggle we undergo daily. God equips is with His divine nature through His Holy Spirit, so like Jesus, we can tame our sinful human nature and teach it to obey Divine Will. We too learn obedience just as He did.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thank the Lord He’s the same Lord today as He was for He Apostles.

God bless!